Big East Week 8 Preview - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Big East Week 8 Preview

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MORGANTOWN -

The top three teams in the Big East all face conference road tests this weekend, which could help separate which of the teams will be serious contenders in the conference race.

Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0), Rutgers (5-1, 2-0), and #15 West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) are each undefeated early on in Big East play, but there have hardly been enough games to get a good grasp on where all of these teams stand. With road games up next, the three leaders could hit their first bumps in the road.

Rutgers and West Virginia will each play Friday night against teams searching for their first conference wins.

The Scarlet Knights are the only team with two Big East wins right now and have gotten to this point with a defense that forces a lot of turnovers, and an opportunistic offense.

It could be much of the same on Friday when they travel to Louisville (2-4, 0-1). The Cardinals' offense has been one of the worst in the country this season, as they have 111th ranked scoring offense. They have yet to score more than 24 points in a game and have been held under 20 for three straight games.

That's good news for Rutgers, because the Knights are giving up just 16 points per game, 12th in the nation. They're also riding a four-game winning streak right now and have already surpassed their win total from last season. A win would give them their first 3-0 start in the Big East since 2006, when they rose as high as #7 in the country.

Still, night road games are always tough, and Louisville is more than capable of upsetting the Knights and bringing them back down to earth.

West Virginia and Syracuse (4-2, 0-1) will kick off at the same time as the other game. The Mountaineers are 14-point favorites and will be looking for revenge after being upset in Morgantown last season. If Syracuse will pull another upset, they'll have to deal with a much-improved WVU offense.

While West Virginia has struggled to find much of a ground game, it is fourth in the country in passing and is scoring 40.8 points per game. Geno Smith has 2,159 passing yards and 16 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. Stedman Bailey has at least 100 receiving yards in four consecutive games.

The Syracuse pass defense is ranked 112th in the country, so things will have to improve there if they want to come away with a win.

The Orange offense hasn't been very high-powered, either. They did score 37 points in their last game against Tulane, but in their only other Big East game, they only put up 16 points in an overtime game against Rutgers. The Mountaineers defense is giving up just 21.5 points per game, so even if Syracuse can slow down Dana Holgorsen and the WVU offense, they still may have trouble scoring enough points to get the win.

The only game on Saturday could be the most interesting one in terms of standings of the weekend. Cincinnati appears to be greatly improved from last year's team, and South Florida (4-2, 0-2) has been very disappointing in its first two Big East games.

However, the Bulls have proven they can be a dangerous team, and the game will be played in Tampa. They'll also be desperate for a win. At 0-2, they aren't out of the conference race just yet. Connecticut started 0-2 last season and still won the Big East. If USF were to fall 0-3, though, it would be too deep of a hole to climb out of. They need a win to stay alive for a BCS bid.

The Bearcats, on the other hand, are looking to keep pace with Rutgers and West Virginia. They've dominated in most of their wins so far, but Louisville did give them a game last weekend.

The way these teams have played so far this season makes Cincinnati seem like the favorites, but the Bulls are 3-point favorites. The game will show us whether USF can bounce back and be player in the Big East, and if the Bearcats are legitimate front-runners.

We'll come into the weekend with three unbeaten conference teams. With the way the season has gone so far, it would be anything but surprising if we left it with a few less.

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